Cultivist Art Trip to Marfa, the West Texas Art Oasis

04 Oct 2022

Driving 3 hours from El Paso to Marfa on the border-adjacent Texas highway was a fitting introduction to the landscape of West Texas for our final art trip of 2022.

The trip to Marfa, Texas, has become an annual fixture in our art trips calendar due to our consistently enriching experiences in the high desert of Far West Texas.

Prada Marfa was as memorable of a first stop as we could've asked for. The permanent sculptural art installation by artists Elmgreen and Dragset sits on the side of the highway about 30 minutes outside Marfa and is one of the most famous and iconic public art installations.

Cochineal was the next, highly anticipated stop. An amazing six-course meal with locally sourced ingredients from their garden, regional farms and ranches set the bar for the trip's culinary experiences. James Beard award semifinalist and owner of the restaurant Alexandra Gates came out to welcome the group.

Marfa is also home to the foundation of the American artist Donald Judd. The Judd foundation preserves the living and working space of Judd, who started buying property in Marfa in 1973. For our Judd Foundation Tour, we started our morning at The Block (Judd's home), the Bank Building and Judd’s largest studio.

"untitled (dawn to dusk)" by Robert Irwin
"untitled (dawn to dusk)" by Robert Irwin
"untitled (dawn to dusk)" by Robert Irwin
"untitled (dawn to dusk)" by Robert Irwin
"100 untitled works in mill aluminum" by Doland Judd
"100 untitled works in mill aluminum" by Doland Judd

Judd's presence in Marfa also extends to the Chinati Foundation, which he founded in 1986. The Chinati Foundation is a pinnacle of postwar American art, home to several large-scale architectural projects. Our guided tour began just before sunrise inside Robert Irwin's largest work to date, the 2016 masterpiece, untitled (dawn to dusk). This monumental work of land art presents contrasting elements of indoors, nature, light and dark, across a divided building, its connecting corridor and a courtyard. Witnessing Irwin's creation first-hand was the most memorable moment of the trip for much of our group.

We then made our way to the artillery sheds where Donald Judd's 100 untitled works in mill aluminium gleamed in the morning light. Our group was left in awe of work from Dan Flavin, Claes Oldenburg, Coosje van Bruggen, Roni Horn, John Chamberlain and more as we travelled from site to site of the multi-building, miles-long complex.

Our tour of the Chinati ended with lunch at The Arena. The modern West-Texas fare encapsulated the spirit of the setting surrounding us. Art Production fund co-founder Yvonne Villareal, who commissioned Prada Marfa in collaboration with Ballroom Marfa, joined us for lunch and shared stories about the Elmgreen & Dragser artwork with the entranced listeners from our group.

Yvonne Villarreal continued to entertain us at a later stop with champagne and dessert at the historic Brite House. Sculptor Leo Villarreal, Yvonne’s husband, is a descendent of the royal Texas ranching family that founded the mansion he and his wife preserve. They have recently tapped Fernando Santangelo, who sensitively modernized the Chateau Marmont Hotel, to redesign the mansion’s interior.

Yvonne has recently started an artist residency program called Brite Force in the mansion. New York City-based artist Will Cotton was the inaugural artist and presented work around Brite House for the first Brite Force exhibiton. We were lucky enough to catch the Will Cotton show before it ended later that September.

The trip to Marfa was a massive success, and our 2023 Marfa trip has already been planned using the same tried and tested formula for this unique art destination.

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—Words by Gideon Fortune. Photo: Mick Haupt